New parents in Hackney will soon receive free baby boxes in a bid to cut infant mortality in the London borough. The boxes will be similar to those given out in Finland, which are considered to have drastically reduced infant mortality in the country.
The cardboard boxes are designed to be used in the first eight months of a baby’s life instead of a cot or Moses basket. It’s thought they keep babies laying on their backs as they sleep, which can prevent sudden infant death syndrome, experts believe.
The boxes will also contain baby products, including a mattress, waterproof cover and cotton sheets, breast pads, wipes and nappies, reported the Evening Standard. To qualify for a box, Hackney’s expectant parents will need to do an online course on healthy habits and support services.
The scheme, called the Welcome Hackney Babies initiative, will be the first of its kind in London when it’s introduced later this year. The council is working with US firm, The Baby Box Co, to create the boxes.
“After people see it is working in Hackney it will be picked up in other London boroughs,” said Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for health, social care and devolution. “It’s all about pointing new mums in the right direction.”
NHS England said it’s not currently planning on rolling out a baby box scheme across London, but individual hospitals including Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea, and North Middlesex, have trialled the idea, the Standard reported. A hospital trust in Greater Manchester also began handing out baby boxes to new parents last week, and Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to roll out a similar scheme across Scotland this summer.
The UK is currently only the 22nd best country in Europe when it comes to infant mortality, with 4.2 babies dying per 1,000 births in 2015. Finland, by contrast, is far better. When the country first introduced baby boxes in 1938, the infant mortality rate stood at 65 deaths per 1,000 births, but by 2015 this had dropped to just 2.3 per 1,000 births and although advances in medicine has obviously contributed to this, the baby boxes are believed to have been a factor in this fall.